, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 269–279

Accumulation of experience in a vast number of cases: enactivism as a fit framework for the study of spatial reasoning in mathematics education

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11858-014-0623-x

Cite this article as:
Khan, S., Francis, K. & Davis, B. ZDM Mathematics Education (2015) 47: 269. doi:10.1007/s11858-014-0623-x


As we witness a push toward studying spatial reasoning as a principal component of mathematical competency and instruction in the twenty first century, we argue that enactivism, with its strong and explicit foci on the coupling of organism and environment, action as cognition, and sensory motor coordination provides an inclusive, expansive, apt, and fit framework. We illustrate the fit of enactivism as a theory of learning with data from an ongoing research project involving teachers and elementary-aged children’s engagement in the design and assembly of motorized robots. We offer that spatial reasoning with its considerations of physical context, the dynamics of a body moving through space, sensorimotor coordination, and cognition, appears different from other conceptual competencies in mathematics. Specifically, we argue that learner engagements with diverse types of informationally ‘dense’ visuo-spatial interfaces (e.g., blueprints, programming icons, blocks, maps), as in the research study, afford some of the necessary experiences with/in a vast number of cases described by Varela et al. (1991) that enable the development of other mathematical competencies.


Enactivism Sensorimotor coordination Spatial reasoning Robotics 

Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Werklund School of EducationUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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